DT&G Magazine Editor's Column
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DTG interviews Roger Parker...

Roger answers some popular design questions. . .

DT&G   Roger, while many designers claim that "Design is design" I know from reading your books that a cornerstone of your teachings is tailoring the design to fit the target audience. Let's focus for a moment on design strategies for nonprofits like civic or community organizations. Where would you begin formulating a strategy to 'sell' a nonprofit?

Roger:   The starting point--like for any business competing for scarce resources, be they customers or contributors--would be to take a look at what the competition is doing. Above all else, you want to make sure that your designs create a distinct brand, one that sets your non-profit apart from others.
      Next, I'd analyze the non-profit's previous communications to identify what I could build on. There's no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water; redesigns should build on the strengths of previous designs, rather than start from scratch.
      Finally, I'd take the time to re-investigate the opportunities offered by one and two-color printing, perhaps choosing a distinct paper stock to create a "third" color. Amazingly strong publications can be created using two colors printing and the right paper stock. Rockport Press has a series of books entitled "Fresh Ideas in 1, 2 and 3 Color Printing." I'd review those volumes for ideas.

DT&G   DT&G: Designers always struggle with the task of convincing management that their design is the one to go with. Any advice in this arena?

Roger:   Like I was telling my class last night, ultimately a designer's success or failure is based on their credibility and people skills. It's one thing to design an effective publication, it's quite another to "sell" it to management who might not understand why you made the design decisions and trade-off's that you did.
      Ultimately, successful designers are those who educate their bosses and co-workers. It takes a lot of diplomacy and tact to convince a designer who likes, say, a typeface like Souvenir, to discard it and use a more appropriate and/or readable typeface like Adobe Minion. Designers must be educators. That's why I think even corporate designers should teach a course or two at a local college or present seminars and workshops in order to hone their education skills, so they become comfortable and confident defending their decisions to management and clients.

DT&G   Do you feel type style selection plays an important role in this particular design process? Like, will a certain style or font face be better for this kind of visual communication?

Roger:   There are two ways to answer this question. Type continues to fascinate me because of its complexity. There are thousands of typeface designs available and once you get beyond the "slab serifs like Rockwell for truck repair companies" and "script typefaces for wedding announcements," it gets quickly complicated. So, there's no easy answer other than spending time at web sites like www.itcfonts.com or www.eyewire.com and use their online typeface comparators to see how short phrases look when set in different typefaces.
      The second answer is to fine-tune the way you use type. Typography is based on careful attention to details; tiny manipulations of spacing make a major difference in a typeface's readability and legibility. A good typeface can be ruined by bad placement on the page, likewise, an "OK" typeface can be made to look good if it is properly spaced.
      Perhaps the best answer is to recommend your visitors to reread Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style or watch for the second edition of Susan and Gary Wheeler's TypeSense which are both eminently readable and useful guides to type.

DT&G   Excellent recommendations, Roger, both of which we've reviewed in the Design Bookshelf. Let me reinforce Roger's recommenation: I'm using the Wheeler's "Type Sense" book as one of the texts in my JMU Typography Class.

Next: Should businesses concentrate on building trendy websites?


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